First Look: The Denver Broncos

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said his decision to change quarterbacks was based on the team's ability to win right now, not the future. Rookie Jay Cutler will take over for Jake Plummer as the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, beginning Sunday at Seattle. Shanahan said it was a tough decision, but he felt the time was right.

"I like the way he practices, I like the way he's handled himself," Shanahan said. "I think he gives us the best chance to win."

Cutler has been practicing well, Shanahan said. Plummer has struggled most of the season, and the Broncos needed a change. Shanahan said Plummer didn't like being demoted. "I think the world of Jake, and I like the way he's handled it," Shanahan said.

Cutler has a tough first test against Seattle, and then he'll play at San Diego. Shanahan warned that there will be a learning curve with the rookie first-round pick.
"There will be growing pains, there will be many mistakes that happen, but he's going to be our guy," Shanahan said. "He's the guy for future, he's the guy for the present."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Broncos were hit with a couple of fines last week. C Tom Nalen was fined $25,000 for a cut block on Chargers lineman Igor Olshansky. Nalen went after Olshansky's knees on a spike play, and Olshansky punched him in the back of the head. Olshansky was ejected and fined $10,000.

--CB Darrent Williams was fined $15,000 for swearing at an official during the San Diego game. He received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

--Tackling was an issue for the Broncos in Thursday's loss at Kansas City. Many times they let Chiefs RB Larry Johnson get loose for big gains, which upset S John Lynch.
"We didn't play fundamentals well, and they beat our tails doing the fundamental things," Lynch said. "It's disappointing."

PLAYER NOTES

--TE Tony Scheffler was inactive again for the Broncos on Thursday. The coaches say they still have faith in Scheffler, a rookie second-round pick, but he has fallen out of favor for now.

--RB Mike Bell struggled against the Chiefs. He has been inconsistent this season. Against Kansas City, he had 28 yards on 10 carries. Tatum Bell missed another game with two injured big toes.

--S Curome Cox played pretty well in his first start in place of injured Nick Ferguson. However, he was upset about a missed tackle that allowed Michael Bennett to pick up 41 yards late in the game.

--CB Champ Bailey continues to dominate for the Broncos. He didn't give up a catch in man coverage against the Chiefs and made many solid tackles to prevent big plays.

--OT Adam Meadows left Denver's game against Kansas City in the first quarter because of a pulled hamstring. George Foster, the starter at right tackle for the first eight games of the season, replaced Meadows and struggled, often allowing pressure from Chiefs DE Tamba Hali. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he didn't know if Meadows would be able to play this week.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. CHIEFS

PASSING OFFENSE: C --
The Broncos' most effective moments came when they spread the field and used four receivers. Jake Plummer made some plays, but not enough to save his job. He had a touchdown and an interception, and a second interception was erased because of a Chiefs penalty. Plummer didn't have much help from his offensive line, which allowed too much pressure to Chiefs ends Jared Allen and Tamba Hali.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- Denver gained only 38 yards. The Broncos miss Tatum Bell, who was inactive again. Bell has two injured big toes and isn't at full speed. Mike Bell didn't get in a rhythm, and Damien Nash, who played well against San Diego, was stuffed. The Broncos line isn't playing well, and neither are the running backs.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Chiefs didn't rely much on Trent Green, who was playing in his second game since suffering a major concussion. The Broncos allowed a few long passes but also made some plays. Darrent Williams' fourth-quarter interception gave the Broncos a chance, but the offense went three and out.

RUSH DEFENSE: D-minus -- The Broncos allowed too many long runs. The Chiefs had 223 yards. Larry Johnson battered Denver and had 157 yards on 34 carries. The Broncos missed too many tackles, especially on backup Michael Bennett's 41-yard run in the fourth quarter that set up a field goal to give Kansas City a nine-point lead.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan singled out the poor play of the special teams again. Denver allowed too many return yards to Dante Hall, and Paul Ernster had a kickoff go out of bounds when the Broncos seemingly had gained some momentum. The Broncos aren't doing very well on their own returns. Brian Clark had one long return nullified by a penalty, and other than that, the Broncos didn't have any explosive returns.

COACHING: D -- The Broncos usually struggle at Kansas City. They weren't sharp Thursday. The defense struggled to tackle and allowed too many big plays. Denver is lost on offense without its running game. The Broncos relied a lot on embattled quarterback Jake Plummer, who couldn't make enough plays. Denver scored only 10 points.


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